It’s no secret that Koh Phi Phi was not my favourite destination that I visited while in Thailand. We had saved our 4 days on the famous island where “The Beach” was filmed until the very end of our 5 week trip through Asia, and after spending the previous month in Bali, Chiang Mai, Ao Nang and Koh Lanta, Koh Phi Phi was a bit of a shock to our systems.
We arrived after an hour-long ferry transfer from Koh Lanta, and were immediately overwhelmed by the buzz of the island. We’d come to expect the flurry of Tuk-Tuk drivers and Porters at the arrival dock, but the chaos didn’t stop there. Koh Phi Phi is an island town with no roads, which means no motorized traffic. It is essentially a network of footpaths between shops, restaurants, dive shops, tattoo parlours, bars and nightclubs, and there are no real addresses or street names and nothing makes sense until you get your bearings and learn your landmarks. We made the mistake of not getting directions to our Guesthouse, Sabai House, and ended up wandering around the stressful streets of Koh Phi Phi for over an hour in the 48 degree heat with our backpacks. Nobody really knew where it was, and it was incredibly frustrating. I’d definitely suggest researching how to get to your accommodation before arriving on the island.
We had booked 2 nights at Sabai House, and were immediately grateful that it was only for 2 nights as soon as we checked in. For the cost, (about $50/night), Sabai House was extremely underwhelming…very basic rooms, uncomfortable beds, run-down bathrooms, a strange layout and not much else. It did have air conditioning, though, which was nice, but that was about the only plus side of staying there. It was in an out-of-the-way location (which we had wanted) and didn’t include breakfast, and the staff were not very friendly. It’s understandable that things are more expensive on Koh Phi Phi than a lot of other places in Thailand, but after staying at so many wonderful places for much less, we agreed that our $50/night could have been much better spent.
We spent our first day on Koh Phi Phi exploring the network of shops and stalls that the island had to offer, and found things to be generally overpriced compared to where we had been previously. The beaches were crowded and full of hawkers constantly trying to sell you anything they could, there were drunken teenagers stumbling all over the place, and loud music blared from every possible outlet. The only saving grace was the sheer beauty of Koh Phi Phi, with its stunning limestone cliffs and impossibly clear, blue water.
On our second day, we booked a tour through Maya Bay Tours, after seeing their advertisement for a Bioluminescent Plankton experience. Swimming with Bioluminescent Plankton (Plankton that glows) has always been a dream of Sean’s, so I figured I’d go along for the ride, and what a ride it was. We boarded our boat at about 3pm, were taken on a magnificent tour of Koh Phi Phi Don’s little sister, Koh Phi Phi Leh, past the Viking Caves, into a gorgeous bay with opportunities for the most incredible snorkelling I have ever experienced, Sea Kayaking, and jumping off of the boat, and then in for a stop at the world-famous Maya Bay, where “The Beach” was filmed in 2000 with Leonardo DiCaprio. We got to Maya Bay just as the sun was beginning to set, which meant that the throngs of tourists who normally crowd the Bay’s Beaches were on their way back to Koh Phi Phi Don. We were able to enjoy the beauty of the island without the crowds, which was really wonderful. We then went back onto the boat and were served a delicious dinner of Chicken Curry, Rice and Veggies. Drinks were also available onboard for an extra charge, but we didn’t have any. Once it got dark enough, we turned off all the lights on the boat and got back into the water with our snorkel masks, and experienced the most incredible light show from the Bioluminescent Plankton. They only light up when you move, so it was a lot of thrashing around in the water like idiots, but the reward was like having hundreds of fairies shooting out of your fingers and toes. It was an unforgettable experience.
After two nights at Sabai House, we were happy to leave. When you go to Koh Phi Phi, expect to be kept awake by unfathomable amounts of noise pollution. Our room literally vibrated until 4am from all of the surrounding night clubs. We hated it, because we aren’t into the party scene at all, but if you’re going to Koh Phi Phi to experience the nightlife, then you probably won’t mind. We were looking forward to our upcoming stay at Viking Nature Resort – in a treehouse.
When we booked a treehouse for $80/night, we expected a legitimate treehouse. Nothing fancy. The Viking long tail boat picked us up from the pier right on time and took us to the other side of the island, where we were absolutely blown away by what awaited us. Viking Nature Resort is a huge property with lots of trails to and from reception, the beaches, the restaurant and the accommodations. If you’re going to be staying there, a decent level of physical ability is definitely recommended. There are two semi-private beaches and a variety of accommodations available, from basic huts to tree houses to multi-room, luxury Makmai units. We had booked a “Superior Tree Hut”, which we later learned was a massive abode built into the side of a hill and a giant tree. Our balcony had a double hammock, a lounger and two chairs, and the room had a queen size bed complete with mosquito net, flat screen TV, mini fridge with mini bar and a large bathroom. It was the most unique, romantic place that we have ever stayed.
We spent our two nights enjoying the tranquility of Viking Nature Resort by laying on the beach, lounging in the hammock, snorkelling the surrounding waters, and enjoying the restaurant on-site. If you need to go to town (we never did) it’s a short boat ride back over to the pier, or about a 40 minute walk. However, if you’re anything like us, you’ll probably never want to leave the peace and quiet that is Viking Nature Resort. Breakfast was included in our stay, and the restaurant was decent, although the service could definitely improve a bit. Overall, though, we really enjoyed our time at Viking Nature Resort. Just be sure to bring a good book or two, because you will definitely be doing a whole lot of glorious nothing.
While Koh Phi Phi was not exactly the peaceful island paradise I had expected (obviously, I didn’t do my research!) it still had a lot to offer, and, while I would probably never return, I’m really glad I went. If you’re a social party-goer, a diver, or you just really like the touristy action, I’m sure you’ll love Koh Phi Phi. And if you’re like me – looking for a peaceful place to relax, I would suggest either heading to Viking Nature Resort, or avoiding Koh Phi Phi entirely and spending more time in a place like Koh Lanta.
Have you been to Koh Phi Phi? What was your experience like?